Phnom Penh can be a really boring city to live in when you have kids. When you DON’T have kids you can do whatever you want….ride Enduro bikes, go shoot some AK47s, race carts, drink beer or watch DVDs all day long. But with kids the need to entertain and excite creeps in so you need to get creative and this city has BUGGER ALL public spaces and those spaces that do exist are not really set up for the public or they are about as enticing as fish milkshake. It is one of this cities greatest downfalls.
However what Phnom Penh does have is ample open space not very far out of the city…..You only need to drive 10kms outside the limits and then take a random turn into the side roads and a whole new world opens up or those that like to explore – which is me! My father used to take me camping and on long road trips when I was growing up and with our trusty kitchen chuck box and our fully kitted out FJ45 LandCruiser there was nowhere we could not go. So with my own LC now and kids that need entertaining, I have decided that weekend road tripping into the unknown is going to be our family activity and we have already completed a few picnics with bags of sandwiches but I want to take it further. I am slowly gearing up for overnight camping ( one night only ) but in the interim, I am getting the car set up for well organised and well equipped day expeditions. I went to Psar O Russei on the weekend and with list in hand, I bought a crate and a selection of Tupperware and liquid containers etc to kit out a kitchen( chuck ) box. The crate now holds almost everything you need for a day out in the bush ; Our butane gas burner for cooking sausages on , two authentic brand new cast iron Mexican skillets (these were picked up in a recent garage sale these things are awesome ), chopping board ,oil, salt,pepper, eating and cooking cutlery,mozzy repellent, dunny paper etc etc etc. The contents are a work in progress but when Grace saw me getting the box ready she really wanted to try it all out early at home so we fired up the grill and cooked some sausages to slap between some buns. It was a good little test actually because it allowed me to think ” ok …if we were outside the city for a cook up…what would we need ?”. Grace -being Daddy’s little girl- just had to take over the whole sausage frying process and the spitting oil didn’t worry her a bit.I swear to god that kid is the apple of my eye and at just three years old she has no fear, an incredibly inquisitive mind and there is nothing she will not try if Dad is doing it too. She is going to make the perfect mud navigator !
Anyhow, come Sunday I was keen to get out there and get some fresh air but everyone was asleep ! Leakhana went out with Srey Touch on Saturday night for a mummies night and a few shots of tequila proved her undoing so she was out for the count and Grace stayed up late watching cartoons with the kids so although she was up and at the cafe at 8am with me for her babycinno, she fell asleep on the way home. Well…..bugger them I thought…I am going and so the kitchen box was loaded as was a tub full of cooling drinks and off into the wilds Karma and I went. My plan was simply to head out along Road #3 towards Kampot and somewhere just outside Takmeo I would turn Left and head into the flat-lands and see where I ended up.
A newly carved road under some power-lines looked a good a place as any to start and as I headed out into car-less territory I was soon getting incredulous stares from locals who first saw the whitey behind the wheel ” BARANG !! ” and then….in a secondary stunning moment realized that there was also a large German Shepherd trotting along behind the car ” AGGHHHH ! CHKAI TOM ( BIG dog ! ) “. We passed herds of cows being…er herded…and rice paddies being planted by waving women and as rain threatened I took turns whenever I felt like it being careful to remember the sequence of turns lest I get lost. Of course the great thing about doing this here is that you cannot get ever REALLY get lost because even when you think you are in the middle of nowhere and there is no way out….some little chap will pop his head up from behind a tree and ask you what you are doing and where you have come from ! Eventually I spied a nice looking “billabong” and Karma and I puller over for a spot of lunch. It was certainly no pristine remote watering hole full of barrammundi but if you closed your eyes and thought hard enough, you could almost see the kangaroos.The little hotplate was fired up, a cold beer was cracked and the sausages were soon sizzling away.
After a nice stopover during which Karma had a cooling swim and I took some photos, it was time to retrace my steps and I was pretty sure if I followed one of the main irrigation canals it would lead me back to the road under the power lines. I was right ( thank god because there was no turning around ) but the canal levee was a wild old road. I am sure once it had been a nicely graded vehicular road but it was now more of a moto track with heavy rutted and corrugated sides that made for a bone jarring ride. The LandCruiser ate it up though and with Karma leading the way, we were soon back on track and back into familiar territory all the while copping more incredulous stares from local farmers ” what the fuck is he doing out here in a car ?? SHIT ____DOG !!!! ” and waves from kids.
So there you have it. A successful fun day bush bashing just outside Phnom Penh with a little picnic bbq thrown in for good measure. When I got home 4 hours later I was bloody exhausted as it was damn muggy out there and I descended into a DEEP sleep. Now I just need to get my hands on a gps from Aruna Technology so I can find my way back to any points of interest I might find and make some slight additions to the cooking kit .
Stay tuned for more spellunking tales ….